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Can a company fire an employee receiving workers' compensation?

Even when employees have been properly trained, a workplace accident can still occur. When a New York employee suffers injuries that prevent him or her from performing a job's duties, it is possible to receive workers' compensation benefits. However, many injured workers decide not to take advantage of these benefits - money that is rightfully theirs - because of the fear of retaliation. However, for the most part, an injured employee's job is protected while he or she is receiving benefits.

According to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board, injured employees are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under this law, employers cannot discriminate against employees who have filed a workers' compensation claim or who are receiving benefits. This means that the employee cannot be harassed or terminated by the employer because of the injuries. Employers that violate this law can be fined, forced to compensate the employee for lost wages and forced to reinstate the employee to his or her previous position.

There are some exceptions to this law. If an employee is so severely ill or injured that he or she will be unable to return to work, then the company will face no other choice but to conduct a lay-off. In addition, if the injured employee's position was crucial to the business, then the company may be forced to terminate the employee. In this case, though, the company should work to find a temporary replacement first before resorting to termination.

It is important to understand, however, that workers' compensation laws are not simple. There are a lot of gray areas.

Source: FindLaw, "Workers' Compensation: Questions and Answers," accessed Aug. 9, 2014

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